Funerals Around the World Series: The Americas

This article was written by BetterAdmin, on June 13, 2016

Funerals, like other community gatherings and traditions, are cultural in nature and vary depending on the area in which they are held. Across the world, families perform rituals of mourning, ceremonies of respect, celebrations of life, and ordinances of honor for those who have passed on. Let us examine and compare funerals from around the world with a focus on the Americas.Toronto, Canada-April 16, 2014: Scenes of the State Funeral for Jim Flaherty, former Minister of Finace of Canada, held at St. James Cathedral in Toronto

Canadian Funerals

In the last century or so, a shift has been seen in Canadian funerals—more and more people are pre-planning their funeral services, dictating how their body is interred, and even writing their own obituaries to announce their death! Upon the pronouncement of death, immediate relatives are notified and arrangements are made. Religious traditions are often closely followed, and since the majority of Canadians ascribe to Christianity (about 67%), viewings and commemorative services are common. Ground burial is the norm in Canada, but cremation is growing in popularity.

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Funerals in the United States

It is common in the United States to hold visitation, funeral, and then burial services. This means that many funerals take all day. Visitation services (often called “viewings” or “wakes”) are often an open-house style gathering, and guests sign a guest book and bring flowers or cards. Funeral or memorial services are usually smaller gatherings, though this is not always the case. Religious leaders, family members, and friends are sometimes invited to speak. At the burial site even fewer guests are found. Pallbearers are specially selected individuals (usually men) who carry the casket from the hearse to the burial site. The body is lowered into the ground and guests are often permitted to leave flowers or other small tributes on the casket to be buried with the dead.

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Funerals in Central America

For many Hispanic cultures, death is a natural part of life and is viewed as the soul’s return home. After a loved one dies, a family member will stay with the body until it is interred, to keep him or her company and to make sure the body is properly

prepared for burial. The body of the deceased is often dressed and prepared by family members, who sometimes also arrange their loved one’s hair. It is common for families to pin memorabilia and images of the Virgin of Guadalupe inside the casket. Visitation gatherings often last all night and are called “vigils.” After the funeral ceremony, the burial takes place. Because many Mexicans and Central Americans believe there are days when the dead return to walk among us, many Hispanics wish to be returned to their homeland to be buried with other members of the family. Following the burial, the family usually gathers to eat, reminisce and comfort each other, as well as to remember and pray for their loved one.

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South American Funeral Traditions

It’s difficult to encapsulate the many different cultures in South America. Much of the Hispanic traditions described above are also true in South America, with some particular differences. In Brazil, for example, death is not natural but very painful, and weeping and wailing is a common way to publicly announce your love for the deceased. In Uruguay, bodies are often placed in an above-ground niche or mausoleum. Between three and five years later, the coffin is exhumed and the bones are placed in an urn, which is returned to the tomb. For most South Americans, November 2nd is All Souls’ Day. This is a very special day in the Hispanic culture, a day of respect to all of those who have passed. On this day candles will be lit on at the gravesites of loved ones; wreaths, flowers, rosaries and gifts are also displayed on the tombstones. Relatives will sit at the grave from sunrise to sunset in prayer.

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